The Upper Napa Valley was once the home of a significant population of Indigenous People, called the Wappo during the Spanish colonial era of the late 18th century. With abundant oak trees providing acorns as a food staple and the natural hot springs as a healing ground Calistoga (Wappo: Nilektsonoma, “Chicken Hawk Place”) was the site of several villages. Following Mexican Independence, mission properties were secularized and disposed of by the Mexican government with much of the Napa Valley being partitioned into large ranchos in the 1830s and 1840s. The first Anglo settlers began arriving in the 1840s, with several taking up lands in the Calistoga area.
Samuel Brannan was the leader of a Mormon settlement expedition on the ship Brooklyn landing in Yerba Buena (San Francisco) in 1846. He published San Francisco’s first English language newspaper, the California Star. Following the discovery of gold in Coloma, Brannan pursued many business ventures, which made him California’s first millionaire and became a leader in San Francisco’s Committee of Vigilance. Fascinated by Calistoga’s natural hot springs, Brannan purchased more than 2,000 acres (8 km2) with the intent to develop a spa reminiscent of Saratoga Springs in New York. “The name of Calistoga was given to the place in the fall of 1867, by Mr. Brannan.
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